Friday, October 07, 2005

Just How Much Support Does He have?

From the Times Union: "Embarrassing setback for Sweeney, Powers First published: Friday, October 7, 2005 A vote last week on who would lead Columbia County's Republican Party delivered a resounding defeat to the candidate backed by former state GOP Chairman Bill Powers and U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park. The loss calls into question how much clout Powers and Sweeney still wield since the days when Powers, a Columbia County resident, led the state GOP and Sweeney was his executive director. 'It's a humiliating defeat for them,' said a Republican connected to Gov. George Pataki, with whom Sweeney and Powers have long been on the outs. 'If they can't take out the Columbia County chairman after years of prodding and scheming, that's not a good sign.' Former Columbia County GOP Chairman Tod Grenci announced in September he would quit after weathering much 'incoming fire' from Powers, Sweeney and their allies, a Republican familiar with the situation said. Vying to replace him were Copake Town Supervisor Angelo Valentino, backed by Grenci, and retired Hudson Police Det. Paul Kisselbrack, supported by Sweeney, Powers and Assemblyman Patrick Manning of Hopewell Junction. Kisselbrack was once Sweeney's driver, earning $2,734 between April and December 2004, records show. A source close to Sweeney said he got involved in the race to 'inject new blood in the party.' Sweeney, a former Pataki labor commissioner, has criticized the state GOP's disarray, intimating Pataki is partly to blame. Sweeney was particularly upset, the source said, that President Bush lost Columbia County while the congressman took 62 percent of the vote. But GOP sources say Sweeney has been gunning for Grenci since 2002. Grenci, a Capital OTB employee, stuck around under then-new OTB President Mike Connery, who wasn't Sweeney's and Powers' pick for the job. Connery, an Essex County resident, was backed by then-state GOP Chairman Alexander 'Sandy' Treadwell, who has a home in Essex County. Pataki hand-picked Treadwell to replace Powers when he stepped down in 2001, pushed out, observers surmised, by a party power struggle with the governor. After Valentino easily won last Wednesday's vote for county chairman, he told The Independent, a weekly paper: 'A lot of people were angry about the attempted manipulation from higher up.' Perceived weakness or local enemies could hurt Sweeney in an expected challenge next year from Democrat Kirsten Rutnik Gillibrand, an attorney and daughter of Douglas Rutnik, a politically connected Albany lawyer-lobbyist who has long been romantically linked with former top Pataki aide Zenia Mucha, a savvy political adviser and potent fund-raising force. Observers note the independently wealthy Treadwell, who owns property in Lake Placid in the 20th Congressional District, may also be interested in the seat, setting the stage for a potential GOP primary.


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